The scientific tourist #315 — Republic F-105B “Thunderchief”

Built for one role, but known historically for being used in an entirely different way, it’s a Republic F-105BThunderchief,” on display at the South Dakota Air and Space Museum:

Republic F-105B "Thunderchief"

The F-105 was designed as a follow-on to the issueplagued F-84F Thunderstreak, and proved to be the last aircraft produced by the Republic Aviation Corporation before its merger with Fairchild.  In fact, design work on the F-105 was well under way before the F-84 was even in service with the USAF.

The F-105’s original role was to deliver a single tactical (i.e., battlefield) nuclear weapon, then escape the scene quickly.  As a result, it was a large aircraft with an internal bomb bay and speed (top speed in excess of Mach 2 at altitude) as its calling cards.  But the Korean War wrapped up before it was ready for use in 1958, so multiple variants of the aircraft were built to support reconnaissance, anti-aircraft-suppression, and ground attack roles.

The F-105’s impressive bomb-carrying capability made it the primary aircraft used to deliver bomb loads during the Vietnam War, playing a particularly outsized role in the war’s early years.  Ironically, the ground attack version of the F-105 was so heavily laden with externally mounted bombs that the otherwise-speedy aircraft experienced relatively large loss rates in combat until it was retired.

This model is an F-105B, one of the earlier variants of the aircraft, of which 71 copies were built.  In all, 833 F-105s were built — nearly half of which were lost in Vietnam.

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